Getty Images a party in European antitrust investigation into Google

Getty claims Google promotes its own images service at the expense of the commercial images company

Getty Images said it had been granted "interested party" status in the European Commission's investigation into alleged anticompetitive behavior by Google, after it complained to the Commission that the search giant favored its own images service in Web search results.

The EC charged Google in April with abusing its dominant market position in Internet search services to favor its comparison shopping product in general search results. It is also probing Google's bundling of its services and apps with the Android operating system.

The Commission said in April it would continue its probe into alleged favorable treatment by Google in its general search results of other specialized search services, and also look into other concerns about the company including charges of scraping of rivals' Web content and undue restrictions on advertisers.

As an interested third person or party, Getty will be informed by the commission of the nature and subject matter of the proceedings and will be provided a time limit within which to express its views. It is not clear whether Getty could influence the direction of the investigation to also include a probe into Google Images.

Getty, which provides its own image search and shopping services to users, said that Google uses photographs and images that are owned and/or distributed by Getty in Google Images search results, that often appear "as a carousel at the top or near the top of the general web search results page." Users that click on images in the carousel are not lead to source sites, but are instead directed to Google Images, where large format, often unattributed images, can be viewed, it said in a statement Monday.

In contrast, Web search results that link directly to the Getty Images website are placed low in search results, and frequently not on the first page of the results, Getty said.

"Google has succeeded in driving additional traffic to itself and created a captive environment that ensures that traffic on Google almost never diverts to the source sites of the images," it added. It accused Google of enabling users to copy images by right-clicking on them, resulting in the theft of original content.

Google did not immediately comment.

Getty settled a copyright dispute with Microsoft in April, after it filed a complaint in September last year against the software giant's Bing Image Widget, which let publishers embed collages and slideshows of images from search results on their websites. The content was said to include copyrighted images owned or controlled by Getty. Microsoft had earlier said it had temporarily removed the widget to talk with Getty and better understand its concerns.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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